A Seattle-area tech company has reason to smile after receiving clearance from the Food and Drug Administration for its tooth-tapping device and machine learning platform that helps dental professionals detect underlying issues.
Redmond, Wash.-based Perimetrics wants to help dentists move quickly to diagnose patients. At the moment, the leading indicator of an issue is pain, and that’s often difficult to use as a launching point because irritation can sometimes “travel” beyond a culprit tooth. Without preventive measures, this pain could result in expensive and invasive procedures, or even tooth loss.
The company is developing a hardware tool called InnerView that lightly taps a tooth to spot micro-movements. Measuring teeth mobility is a technique that dentists can use to help spot underlying tooth issues. Healthy teeth stay still, while damaged ones move, revealing issues such as failing restorations and various types of cracks.
Perimetrics said it believes it can potentially solve another common snag in dental practice: the difficulty of accurately identifying vertical tooth cracks, whether above or below the gum line, which traditional X-ray machines and CT scans often fail to detect.
The company was co-founded by Cherilyn Sheets, a dentist from Newport Beach, Calif., and Jim Earthman, a materials science and engineering professor with a joint appointment in biomedical engineering at the University of California, Irvine.
The co-founders appointed dental hardware executive Robert Hayman to lead the company as CEO and chairman. He is the former founder and CEO of Discus Dental, which develops and markets dental materials and small equipment. It was acquired by Philips in 2010.
InnerView, a handheld device, collects data and sends it to Perimetrics’ machine learning platform to help dentists diagnose patients. It also tracks dental data over time, providing a portal for dentists and patients to spot trends to help make more informed intervention decisions.
The company’s algorithms will improve over time as it gains market share and rolls out more broadly, Hayman told GeekWire. Its devices are currently being used at about five practitioners and the goal is to soon scale that up to about 30 practices, he said.
The CEO said the company requires two additional FDA clearances before a commercial launch. The company expects regional availability to dentists in the second-quarter of next year and nationwide distribution by the end of 2024. It has 18 patents and a “first-mover advantage,” Hayman said.
Perimetrics has landed more than $21 million in funding from a mix of angel investors, family offices, and crowdfunding sources. It has yet to raise cash from traditional venture capital.
The 16-person company is also led by CTO Dennis Quan. The MIT computer science graduate spent more than 15 years in various technical leadership roles at IBM including vice president of engineering at its public cloud infrastructure. He’s joined by CFO Sherry Fischer, a finance exec who held senior roles at Discus Dental and Philips.
Hayman said Perimetrics is focusing on the professional dental community, estimating the global market is more than $13 billion.
“Elon Musk probably wouldn’t even look at this,” he said about the opportunity. “But for us in the dental industry, this is a massive market.”